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plicity of style and tenderness of sentiment, which continued for so many centuries to grace the best compositions of Arabia. “Its subject,” says the Professor, “ is one that must be ever interesting to a feeling mind-the return of a person, after a long absence, to the place where he had spent his early years—it is, in fact, an Arabian deSERTED VILLAGE.
Those dear abodes which once contain'd the fair,
Amidst Mitata's wilds I seek in vain,
But scatter'd ruins, and a silent plain.
Their course neglected and their waters gone,
Like moss-grown letters on a mouldering stone.
Its hallow'd circle o'er our heads hath roll'd,
And fondly listen’d to the tale I told ?
A never-failing stream, hath drench'd thy head?
Or gentle drops, its genial influence shed ?
Hath caus'd thy locks with glittering gems to glow?
To fall responsive to the breeze below?
Now clothe those meadows once with verdure gay;
The teeming antelope and ostrich stray:
The large-ey'd mother of the herd, that flies
Man's noisy haunts, here finds a sure retreat,
Strength to their limbs and swiftness to their feet.
And giv’n their deep foundations to the light
A long-lost picture to the raptur'd sight.)
And bared the scanty fragments to our view,
Bids the faint tints resume their azure hue.)
Points out the mansion to enquiring eyes;
Our mournful questions and our bursting sighs.
Can faithful memory former scenes restore,
And picture all that charm'd us there before.
That bore the fair ones from these seats so dear-
And yet the tent-poles rattle in my ear.
The streamers wave in all their painted pride,
And vainly strive the charms within to hide.
* It is a custom with the Arabian women, in order to give the veins of their hands and arms a more brilliant appearance, to make slight punctures along them, and to rub into the incisions a blue powder, which they renew occa. sionally, as it happens to wear out,
What graceful forms those envious folds inclose !
What melting glances thro' those curtains play!
Thro' yonder veils their sportive young survey.
The band mov'd on-to trace their steps I strove,
I saw them urge the camel's hastening flight,
Snatch'd them for ever from my aching sight.
Nor since that morn have I NAWARA seen,
The bands are burst which held us once so fast,
And sad Reflection adds that they are past t.
The same chastity and simplicity of style, which distinguish the best ages of Arabian poetry, are, likewise, to be found in their prose writings, produced during the same period. The Arabian Tales, or the Thousand and One Nights, are said, by those who are judges of the original, to be frequently specimens of the most simple and elegant diction. They were written, it is probable, during the most flourishing era of the Khaliphat, in the space included between the eighth and twelfth centuries, when the language of Arabia, to use the words of Mr. Richardson, was “sublime, comprehensive, copious, energetic, delicate, majestic; adapted equally for the softness of love, or the poignancy of satire ; for the mournfulness of elegy, or the grandeur of heroics; for the simplest tale, or the boldest effort of rhetoric *.” What strongly corroborates the supposition of their antiquity is their freedom from any
* The vapour here alluded to, called by the Arabians Serab, is not unlike in appearance (and probably proceeding from a similar cause) to those white mists which we often see huvering over the surface of a river, in a summer's evening, after a hot day. They are very frequent in the sultry plains of Arabia, and, when seen at a distance, resemble an expanded lake; but upon a nearer approach, the thirsty traveller perceives his deception. f Carlyle's Specimens of Arabian Poetry, p. 5. VOL. II.
allusion to modern customs, manners, or events, to the use of gunpowder, or to the enterprising efforts of European travellers and navigators.
It may likewise be affirmed, that had they been recent productions, the offspring of the fifteenth, sixteenth, or seventeenth century, the language would have partaken of that inflation and turgidity, which almost invariably characterize the prose works of modern oriental writers. To be convinced of this, I have only to refer the reader to the Tales of Inatulla, as literally translated by Mr. Scott. These productions form a species of romance, under the title of BaharDanush, or Garden of Knowledge, written by the Persian EINAINT COLLAH, Anno Domini 1650, in the reign of the Emperor Shaw Jehaun. Than the style of this work nothing can be more bombastic, puerile, and absurd; it is loaded with monstrous epithets, incongruous metaphors, and the most ridiculous conceits; while the incidents are, for the most part, licentious, trifling, and jejune.
* Preface to his Arabic Grammar.
It is to be regretted that, either from ignorance or false taste, the imitators of oriental fable have, in general, rather chosen to copy the tumid style, which for some centuries has prevailed among
prose writers of Persia, than the pure and correct manner of what may be termed the classical authors of Arabia. Hence have we been deluged with such a quantity of bloated composition, under the title of Oriental Tales. A most striking exception, however, to this erroneous taste, we possess in the writings of Addison, whose eastern tales and apologues are written in language of the greatest simplicity and purity.
If we take the Arabian Tales *, therefore, as a model, we shall perceive they may be defined, as containing a series of wild and wonderful incidents, copiously mingled with the superstitions and preternatural machinery of the East, faith
* These have lately been very elegantly translated from the French version, by the Rev. Edward Forster; a very acceptable present to the public, as the old translation was not only incorrect, but coarse and vulgar in its diction.